If we don’t get (Covid-19) vaccines, how will we start vaccination from May 1, says Maharashtra minister Rajesh Tope

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“Availability of the (Covid-19) vaccine is a big question; we can spend, but there are limited manufacturers who can supply,” Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope said on Tuesday. He also said that people must pre-register and schedule appointments for vaccination instead of walking into a centre.

Tope said Maharashtra plans to float a global tender to procure vaccines since two domestic manufacturers, Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech, have not yet responded to the state’s query for supply of 12 crore vaccine doses. The minister said the health department has submitted a proposal giving various options for vaccination, including free vaccination, import of vaccine doses, and whether people who can afford it should be asked to pay.

“But if we don’t get vaccines, how will we start vaccination from May 1?” Tope said, adding, “This is not just our situation, this is a situation every state in India is facing.”

Maharashtra has over 5 crore people in the age group of 18-44 years and, for their two-dose vaccine and taking wastage into account, 12 crore doses will be needed.

The cabinet is soon going to take a call on this.

Tope said Maharashtra has appealed to the Government of India to intervene and help if Maharashtra is unable to procure the required stock due to shortage. “We also urge the Centre to fix prices of vaccines in the private sector,” he said. “SII has told us that till May 20 their stock is blocked by the central government. They cannot supply before that,” Tope added.

Maharashtra, the minister said, can expand upto 4,193 vaccination centres immediately to increase coverage. “Maharashtra has 2 per cent vaccine wastage, it is vaccinating maximum number of people. Yesterday, we did 5.24 lakh immunisations. We are heading for a vaccination drive in the country,” he said.

“Seeing our performance, the Government of India should handhold where required,” he added.

Tope added that the state has issued global tenders for other Covid-19 related treatment equipment. The state wants to import 40,000 oxygen concentrators, 132 pressure swing adsorption plants, 27 oxygen tankers to store liquid oxygen, 10 lakh Remdesivir vials, and 2,500 MT liquid medical oxygen. The state’s tender for LMO is in addition to the Centre’s tender of 50,000 MT.

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